The Heritage Research Group formed to explore homelessness and poverty in Brighton & Hove throughout recent history, including investigating the experiences of people who have faced rough sleeping, and researching the policies and provisions developed to support people most in need.
Heritage in Brighton & Hove is heavily focused on the rich, ornate, Georgian architectural landscape, and the town’s rise in popularity to become one of Britain’s most fashionable seaside resorts. Alongside this celebrated history, however, Brighton has always had a very present issue with homelessness. Due to stigma, this aspect of our city’s heritage is rarely explored, and voices and experiences of people who have faced homelessness are hidden.
The Heritage Research Group has visited Brighton and Hove Museums, met with local curators, undertaken workshops at The Keep, visited The Spike Heritage Centre and has conducted extensive literature and internet research to build a picture of attitudes towards homelessness throughout various periods of history, and subsequently how approaches to homelessness have changed.
Clients have viewed historic drawings, maps, land plans, census information, and films including Oliver Twist! and Cathy Come Home to establish a timeline of provision and support; from the first legislation of 1349, the creation of the workhouse, the dispersal of ‘inmates’ during WWI, the Squatters’ Movement following WWII, the creation of the welfare state, through to the emergence of many charities in Brighton & Hove.
The group has collated its extensive research to form a heritage trail for the public. The trail takes in the site of Brighton’s first almshouses and workhouse, the former North Road slipper baths, a residence occupied by Harry Cowley during the 1940’s, the Church Hill Workhouse and views of Race Hill Workhouse. The route concludes at First Base Day Centre, where men and women who are street homeless in Brighton & Hove today are able to access a comprehensive range of housing, health and wellbeing, and work and learning focused support.